Ken Ham slams religion


For a man who claims to be reli­gious, Ken Ham cer­tainly has a neg­at­ive view of reli­gion. io9 reports that he has denounced the Smithsonian for pro­mot­ing nat­ur­al­ism. So when he wanted to den­ig­rate nat­ur­al­ism why did he use the word reli­gion?

It’s rare that any­one poin­tedly say­ing sci­ence is a reli­gion, is using the term reli­gion in a pos­it­ive sense.

So to cel­eb­rate, I’ve added Religion as a new Creationism Card.

Religion as a creationism card

Creationism Cards, col­lect the set!

In pos­sibly related news, I’ve had an uptick in end-times email in my inbox.

5 Years On — Chemotherapy Works


I wrote someone out of my will today.

It was five years ago I had chemo­ther­apy for can­cer. It should have been six, but I held off get­ting a dia­gnosis because I was in the last year of my PhD and help­ing out with eld­erly rel­at­ives. I wasn’t strictly in denial about hav­ing can­cer, but the tim­ing was bad. Relatives died which caused more prob­lems. When another close rel­at­ive was hos­pit­al­ised it was obvi­ous there wasn’t going to be a con­veni­ent time.

I was dia­gnosed on a Monday after­noon and oper­ated on the fol­low­ing day. It wasn’t that bad a situ­ation, someone else had can­celled their oper­a­tion due to snow. I was offered either their spot, or else wait a few weeks for the oper­a­tion. Hanging around with the tumour inside me seemed like a really bad idea, so in I went. The follow-up was a brief course of chemotherapy.

There’s been a lot writ­ten about how bad chemo­ther­apy is, but I had no prob­lem. Here’s a selfie from five years ago while I’m hav­ing chemotherapy.

chemo selfie

I pottered around the house and had no trouble at all. I didn’t have any prob­lem, though one day I did fancy some Jaffa Cakes and there were none in the house. So I went out to the shops to get some. This is a map of how far away the shop was.

Map via Google Maps.

Map via Google Maps

I was tired well before the first corner. Continue read­ing

Mick Aston


Mick Aston was prob­ably the best-known archae­olo­gist in the UK. I’d also go so far as to say that he was the most influ­en­tial archae­olo­gist of the last 25 years.

Mick Aston

Mick Aston (centre). Photo by Wessex Archaeology.

The reason is Time Team, an archae­olo­gical series on Channel 4. If Sky at Night is Astronomy then Time Team when Mick Aston was in it was archae­ology. Its suc­cess massively expan­ded the uptake of archae­ology by stu­dents. Mick Aston’s idea was respons­ible sup­port­ing an incal­cul­able num­ber of jobs in uni­ver­sity depart­ments. It’s easy to over­look was an aston­ish­ing idea Time Team was.

The tra­di­tional doc­u­ment­ary places the aca­demic speaker at the author­ity speak­ing Truth. A recent example is Rise of the Continents, where Mantle Plumes are presen­ted as unques­tioned fact as noted in the post at The Theatre of Reason. A com­mon grumble is that sci­ence is a pro­cess not a body of fact, so how do you show pro­cess? Mick Aston reckoned you could pro­duce a usable brief eval­u­ation of an archae­olo­gical site in three days and this became Time Team. A cam­era crew fol­lowed an archae­olo­gical team as they dug for three days.

Below I’ve embed­ded the epis­ode from Blaenavon, which I hope 4oDDocumentaries have made widely access­ible.* You could make a drink­ing game from the num­ber of times someone says they don’t know some­thing. To steal a line from Paul Bahn: it’s not about find­ing things, it’s about find­ing things out.

As a meas­ure of impact, I offer another series, Bonekickers. Bonekickers was an attempt by the Life on Mars team to pro­duce a drama around an archae­ology unit. It was laughed out of the sched­ules because Time Team had demon­strated to a large chunk of the UK pop­u­la­tion how archae­ology worked. To be fair Bonekickers was pretty awful in its own right, but it’s thanks to the impact of Time Team that it became truly ris­ible. Can you ima­gine that hap­pen­ing with any other aca­demic discipline?

Mick Aston’s influ­ence meant that he became a ste­reo­type of an archae­olo­gist in his own time. That could sound snide, but rather it’s a meas­ure of how loved by the pub­lic he was.

He also had the poten­tial to keep innov­at­ing. After leav­ing Time Team, he’d been work­ing with Timothy Taylor on Dig Village. In some ways he was in the twi­light of his career, but he still could have shone for many years like the even­ing star.

Photo Time Team in Salisbury by Wessex Archaeology. This image licensed under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa licence.

*I’m not optim­istic that it’s vis­ible bey­ond the UK. You can search for Time Team on YouTube, but embed­ding those videos isn’t sens­ible. Uploading a pro­gramme whole­sale, breach­ing the copy­right isn’t neg­ated by say­ing “No infringe­ment of copy­right is inten­ded”. These videos will be com­ing down sooner or later. My per­sonal favour­ite epis­ode is prob­ably Llygadwy / Celtic Spring, but that’s not so typ­ical of the series.

Want a happy holiday? Pray for an Arctic blast Telegraph tells numerate readers.


Dr Arnall’s hap­pi­ness for­mula is: O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He. Put more simply, a numer­ical value for being out­doors (O) was added to nature (N) mul­ti­plied by social inter­ac­tion (S), added to child­hood sum­mer memor­ies and pos­it­ive thoughts (Cpm) divided by tem­per­at­ure (T), and added to hol­i­day excite­ment (He).

So explains the Daily Telegraph. When divid­ing a smal­ler denom­in­ator gives a big­ger num­ber. 1/10 is a big­ger num­ber than 1/100 des­pite 100 being big­ger than 10. When T approaches zero Cpm/T approaches infin­ity. Dr Arnall is we will be hap­pi­est when T = 0. That’s a sum­mer where the tem­per­at­ure hits freez­ing point if you’re meas­ur­ing in Centigrade,* when you’ll be infin­itely happy. If you’re meas­ur­ing in Fahrenheit you’ll be euphoric when the tem­per­at­ure reaches the equi­val­ent of –18ºC.

What’s pain­ful to read is that he doesn’t seem to under­stand his own for­mula. He’s quoted as say­ing: “June has also seen some warm weather after the cold spring, with people hop­ing more warm spells are ahead,” without warn­ing that in his fantasy this warm weather would be less pleas­ing than cold and drizzle.

*Anders Celsius ori­gin­ally set his scale the other way round, so that boil­ing point was 0º and water froze at 100º. Despite this, I strongly doubt Dr Arnall would he happy if someone tripped and spilled the con­tents of a boil­ing kettle over him.

Where can you find out more about the UNESCO Astronomy World Heritage Inititative?


For any­one search­ing for my name today, here’s the inform­a­tion you’re after.

The bit I’m work­ing with is the Portal to the Heritage of Astronomy. This is the part where all the pub­lic inform­a­tion is.

There are pages about the ini­ti­at­ive at UNESCO and the IAU.

It’s excel­lent report­ing by Andy Carling, so if I’ve said any­thing incor­rect or muddled then it’s def­in­itely me who got it wrong, not some com­mu­nic­a­tion mix-up.

For once an anti-GM campaigner might cheer a Monsanto win

I’ve blogged about my con­fu­sion over the Bowman vs. Monsanto case at AoB Blog. There’s a whole argu­ment over GMOs are bad or not, or if that’s even the right ques­tion. But if they are, does that mean the anti-GM pos­i­tion is always anti-Monsanto?

On this occa­sion I argue a Monsanto win would do more to reduce the uptake of GMOs than a loss. It’s per­fectly pos­sible I’ve made a mis­take. The cam­paign­ers are pre­sum­ably much more know­ledgable about the situ­ation than I am, so feel free to leave a com­ment at AoB Blog.

Embedded Link

My enemy’s enemy…?
Recently a lot of com­ments on the Bowman vs. Monsanto court case have been in my social media streams. If you’ve not heard about this, it’s about a court case between a farmer and the Monsanto corp.…..